THE BLOG
11/03/2011 06:11 pm ET Updated Jan 03, 2012

Quick-and-Dirty Tips for Clean Eating

Let's start with the real-deal truth. There's no better grocery than Mother Nature's Market -- this planet. Whole, natural foods are simply unbeatable staples in any healthy diet. If it doesn't come from the good earth or from a tree, then it's not worth dropping in your shopping cart. In fact, don't even put it on your shopping list.

While we're on the topic of whole foods, here's a good rule of thumb. Select foods that contain one ingredient. Next time you're in the frozen food section, grab a pack of frozen peas. It may state something like this on the back, "Ingredients: Peas." Now that may seem like a no-brainer, but it's exactly the kind of food that we should be buying for ourselves and our families. Keep it simple. Apple, spinach, avocado, etc. One ingredient.

Make it a point to prepare as many meals as you possibly can. This will help you curb the temptation to run out and hit up the nearby fast food joint -- the purveyors of the quick, easy, and "lazy food" that's so prevalent in American culture. Making your meals also allows you to do the next point...

Know what's in your food to control what you put into your body. You wouldn't put window cleaner in the fuel tank of a high-end sports car and expect it to perform at its top level, right? That wouldn't make any sense. That product has no business being in that car. The same applies to the human body. That chemical ingredient you can't pronounce in that junk food in your hand doesn't belong in your body, either. Respect your body. If you see a mysterious ingredient, and an image of guys in white lab coats holding beakers comes to mind, you should probably steer clear of it and not volunteer yourself as a guinea pig.

Some of us see cooking as a chore. A bore. Tedious labor. Well, it doesn't have to be that way. Spice things up in the kitchen. Or take it outside. Have an outdoor feast or a picnic. Invite a neighbor or friend over for dinner. I'm still amazed at the number of people who believe that healthy food can't be tasty food. Know someone like that? Cook something for them and prove them wrong. Whatever you decide to do, make it fun.

For the times you find yourself eating out, stick to the basics. Lean proteins, leafy greens, veggies, whole grains, healthy fats and oils, etc. Don't be afraid to tell your waiter how you want your food prepared. And be polite. After all, they're working to make sure your dining experience is great. Waiters and waitresses love generous tips, and if you play your cards right, they'll be willing to move mountains for you. Explore your menu options. If you don't ask for what you want, you won't get it.

Eating clean is also about drinking clean. Clean water, that is. Drink plenty of it. Like it's going out of style, especially if you're working out hard. The elixir of life. It works wonders.

High fructose corn syrup? C'mon, people. You know the answer to that one. Don't touch the stuff. It's hard, though. I know. It's in just about everything these days, but if you're diligent, you'll find the right foods and send HFCS packing. Evicted from your diet. If you're drinking soda of any kind, stop. Period. End of discussion.

And don't forget to treat yourself every so often. You're working out. You're making wise dietary choices. Pat yourself on the back once a week or so. Throw some fruit and yogurt in the mix, instead of artificially flavored (and extremely sweetened) desserts. Keep it natural and whole, and the rest will take care of itself.